BY KEN LITTLE
Jury selection starts today in the first-degree murder trial of Ethan A. Self, charged in connection with the March 2010 shooting death of his police officer father.
The trial will be held at the Hawkins County Justice Center in Rogersville. The jury will be drawn from a pool of Hawkins County residents.
Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood will preside. He was appointed following the decision of Greene County Criminal Court Judge John F. Dugger Jr. to recuse himself.
Greene County native Tony Clark, district attorney general of the First Judicial District, will lead the prosecution.
Greeneville lawyer John T. Milburn Rogers, assisted by Knoxville trial lawyer Herbert S. Moncier and Jenny Coques Rogers, represents Self.
Roger Self, 46, a Greeneville Police Department dispatch sergeant, died of a gunshot wound to the head on March 24, 2010.
Ethan Self, now 21, was charged in connection with the shooting the day after his father's body was found in the bedroom of their Love Street home.
WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY
The Self trial has been continued three times for various reasons. After being appointed to preside over the case, Blackwood stressed the importance of the case's proceeding without further delay.
Blackwood said during a recent hearing on the case that the trial could take two to three weeks.
Two days have been set aside for jury selection. After Blackwood excused about 100 potential jurors during a special screening session Aug. 2 in Rogersville, about 300 people remain in the jury pool.
The prosecution has indicated that 40 to 50 witnesses may be called. The defense is expected to have several expert witnesses testify. It's not known if Self will take the stand in his own defense.
Rogers may pursue an "accidental shooting" defense for Self, who has remained free on $500,000 bond while awaiting trial.
PREPARED TO TRY CASE
Defense lawyers and prosecutors have said they are ready for trial.
Rogers said last week he has come to regard Self almost "like a son."
"I've devoted my life to Ethan for long time," he said. "He's been like a son to me."
Rogers, who has four daughters, said that, if he had a son, "I'd want him to be just like Ethan Self."
Dugger approved a motion by Rogers in 2010 to select a jury in another county because of pretrial publicity the case has received.
In May, Blackwood approved a defense request for a change of venue.
The trial, originally scheduled in Greeneville, was changed to Hawkins County because of courtroom availability within the four-county Third Judicial District.
STATEMENT AFTER ARREST
Sgt. Roger Self was found dead by a Greeneville police officer after he failed to report to work on March 24, 2010.
In a statement read into the court record during a 2010 hearing by a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation special agent, Ethan Self maintained that the shooting of his father was accidental.
According to the statement, the shooting occurred on March 24 when Ethan Self pointed a pistol at his sleeping father and was preparing to "show him who the bigger man was" when the firearm discharged.
The younger Self, according to the statement read by Morton, maintained that he had decided to scare Roger Self with the pistol because his father had verbally abused him earlier for forgetting to remove laundry from a clothes dryer and for failing to awaken him on time.
Ethan Self also told the TBI during questioning that he thought the pistol's "safety" was "on," and that he had never before fired the weapon.
The statement also indicated that Ethan Self told the TBI that he decided to make it look as though a burglary had occurred at the house, and "ransacked" the interior of the residence after the shooting took place.
NO DEATH PENALTY
The prosecution will not seek the death penalty for Self. Instead, life imprisonment will be sought if Self is convicted of the murder count.
Defense lawyers will not ask for a jury sequestration.
Clark was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case after Berkeley Bell, Third Judicial District attorney general, recused himself from the Self case in 2011.
Blackwood, from Somerville in West Tennessee, retired in 2004 as a Circuit Court judge. He has lived in the Maryville area since retirement.
Blackwood is one of three senior judges appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to preside over cases requiring a special judge.